Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or Toller, was developed in the Little River area of Nova Scotia in the mid to late 1800s. Originally known as the Little River Duck Dog, it is the smallest of the retriever breeds, having been created by the mixture of various spaniel and small retrieving and farm shepherd breeds in the Little River area.
The Toller was designed not only to retrieve, but also to lure ducks in to shore through play and antics along the shoreline. Called "tolling" ducks, this technique of bringing swimming ducks into shore was used from the early days of fowling piece invention; then, the fowling pieces were cumbersome and not well crafted. Difficult to aim, it was impossible to gain the accuracy to shoot birds on the fly. So birds gathered on the water, or "rafting" would need to be brought within gun range without being spooked. Human activity would spook birds into flight and ruin any chance of getting a good shot, so dogs were used instead.
The sight of a dog frolicking and playing with sticks on a shoreline is irresistable to a flock of swimming ducks. In the early days of market hunting, entire flocks were lured ashore and into pens where they could be captured and sold live at market. Other hunters used nets to capture the ducks, throwing the nets over the flock. And of course, guns were used to shoot into the flock and bring down as many as possible.
Many types of small dogs, poodles and small spaniels, were used to toll ducks. In some cases, costumes were put on the dogs to make them look even more interesting to the ducks. As the use of firearms in duck harvesting increased, hunters often used two types of dog; one to toll the ducks into gun range, the other type to retrieve the game after it had been shot. It was only a matter of time before someone got the idea to merge the two activities, and create a breed of dog that would be able to perform both activities. Thus the Toller was born.
AKC Standard for NSDTR.